Wednesday, December 11, 2013
At about the point where Penobscot Bay begins to narrow into the Penobscot River flowing down from the Katahdin region through Bangor and along both sides of Verona Island, Cape Jellison, a 1,600-acre peninsula, juts out into the bay. In colonial times it was known as Wasaumkeag Point, and the remains of Fort Pownall, built in 1759, still stand sentinel with the Fort Point Light Station, built in 1836 and automated in 1988.
Fort Point Light Station and the remains of Fort Pownall are off the beaten path but offer an enjoyable day.
John Christie photo
The cape was also the site of a port facility built by the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad.
Enough off the beaten path and often overlooked, it's a little secret I'm happy to share. If you're looking for a day's outing that could include kayaking, biking, hiking, fishing, sightseeing and digging into Maine's Colonial history, put a visit to the cape and Fort Point State Park on the list.
Keep your eye out for signs indicating the route to Fort Point State Park as you approach Stockton Springs, a few miles north of Searsport on Route 1. After arriving on the cape, bearing right will take you shortly to an opportunity to launch your kayak on the east shore. From there, it's a delightful paddle around the point to Fort Point State Park, where you'll find a pier with floats and picnic tables with wonderful views up the river and across to the peninsula leading to Castine.
One thing to bear in mind is it probably will breeze up in the afternoon out of the southwest, which can make for a bit of a tussle getting back around the point to your launch site against the wind. And even more so if there's an incoming tide. So check the weather, tide chart and a watch so you don't get caught getting more exercise than you planned.
On a recent paddle on a breezy, sun-drenched morning, I was joined by a proud mother seal cavorting with her pup for a couple of miles as I ventured out through Stockton Harbor with Sears Island on my right. Paddling out around Squaw Point inside of Squaw Head, I was propelled by a nice westerly along the south side of the cape all the way to Fort Point with a nice view of the lighthouse.
Swinging around the point and heading back west, protected from the increasing breeze, I put ashore on a sand bar for a snack. The tide was dead low and I could get a nice view of the rugged pier standing on the site of an old steamship wharf where the Boston Steamer used to pick up and drop off passengers.
A couple of well-spent hours wandering in the park energized me for the paddle back.
In the 120-acre park, which features more than a mile of rocky shore, a tidal sandbar, and a diverse habitat for a variety of plants and animals, you'll be able to visit the Fort Point State Historic Site and Fort Point Light Station. The remains of Fort Pownall contain interpretive panels and a marker on the original burial site of Gen. Samuel Waldo, for whom both Waldo County and Waldoboro were named.
If your recreational pursuits for the day are land-based, the cape and park have something to offer hikers and bikers. There's a network of hiking trails through open fields and wooded areas to well-identified historic sites.
Interpretive signs describe the military and maritime history, including how 400 men under Massachusetts Gov. Thomas Pownall, for whom the fort was named, labored to build a fort that, in his words, "would protect the finest bay on North America for large shipping just at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy and would be advancing the Frontiers of his Majesty's dominion."
Sure enough, his Majesty's forces seized the fort's cannons and powder in 1775. Later, a regiment of continentals burned the blockhouse and filled in much of the ditch system to prevent the British from using the fort.
If on a bike, you'll find that the 7-mile loop from the parking lot around the cape makes for a relaxing ride on gentle terrain.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org